Tube? (was: Re: Subway!)

Aaron E. Drews aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK
Fri Jun 9 18:59:23 UTC 2000

on 9/6/00 5:43 PM, Lynne Murphy wrote:

> Peter asked:
>> Have Londoners taken to calling the Underground "the tube"
>> indiscriminately?  I had it explained to me by a Londoner back in the 60s
>> that "tube" referred only to the routes created by underground drilling at
>> greater depths, like the Picadilly and Bakerloo Lines, and would not be
>> used of routes like the Circle Line, which were near enough to the surface
>> to be created by the "break and cover" method.  I think I even read the
>> same thing in some guide book.  I've taken it as gospel ever since, but
>> maybe it was always more technical than colloquial.
> I haven't heard anyone make the distinction, but then I don't live in London,
> so maybe people up there are pickier.  When I've asked "can I get there by
> tube?", no one's corrected me and I'm typically going on the Circle and
> District lines.  The guide for visitors at says:

I don't know about in London, but here in Edinburgh (where there are a lot
of Londoners, admittedly), "the tube" refers to the London Underground.  The
whole system.  But, I sense a drift of "tube" meaning *any* (partially)
subterranean rail system.  So, I don't think locals would bat an eyelid if
someone were to mention the tube in Glasgow. In fact, my in-laws have
mentioned taking the tube in New York.

Does "tube" have a [j] (or [y], depending on convention) in any American
dialects?  Here, it's pronounced like "chewb", which causes me a slight
giggle every so often, despite years of "scientifically studying" this


Aaron E. Drews                               The University of Edinburgh      Departments of English Language and
aaron at                    Theoretical & Applied Linguistics


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